Mount St. Mary’s president Simon Newman resigns

On Monday evening Mount St. Mary’s University announced that its embattled president, Simon P. Newman, has resigned his post. Earlier this month, 87 of the Catholic university’s 90 faculty members had petitioned the Board of Trustees to remove Newman as president.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The university said in a written statement on Monday evening that Mr. Newman’s resignation was effective immediately.

“The board is grateful to President Newman for his many accomplishments over the past year, including strengthening the university’s finances, developing a comprehensive strategic plan for our future, and bringing many new ideas to campus that have benefited the entire Mount community,” said John E. Coyne III, the board’s chairman. “We thank him for his service.”

In a separate statement, Mr. Newman said: “I am proud of what I have been able to achieve in a relatively short time, particularly in helping the university chart a clear course toward a bright future. I care deeply about the school, and the recent publicity relating to my leadership has become too great of a distraction to our mission of educating students. It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is the right course of action for the Mount at this time.”

At the height of the furor over Newman’s firing of two faculty members who had criticized his policies, Thomas S. Hibbs wrote for CWR:

What made the Mount a national story was the report of a singular and singularly abusive and fatuous quotation from Simon Newman about freshmen students at the Mount. In a meeting about retention rates, the president proposed asking just arrived freshmen to take a survey, for whose questions, the students would be told, there would be no wrong answer. Yet the answers would in fact be used to determine which students were unhappy or struggling, which would in turn lead to a frank conversation with the students and possibly a suggestion that they withdraw from the school. Of course, the most obvious problem with this strategy is that this is a crude mechanism for determining retention. Students go through bouts of depression, loneliness, and homesickness at various points in their first year and beyond.

What made it clear that the primary concern was not the students but the retention rates was Simon’s outlandish comment to those objecting to the plan. “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t,” Mr. Newman is quoted as saying. “You just have to drown the bunnies.” He added, “Put a Glock to their heads.” This is more than an unfortunate malapropism. Anyone who thinks this way about students should have none of them under his care. …

The success or even survival rate of a university president who has lost the confidence of more than 95 percent of the faculty is not high, as the events of the past days demonstrate. But there is still the fact that the Board once thought that appointing Simon was a wise choice. The Board is like Trump’s fan base in the electorate—a base that is frustrated by any number of things, impatient for a quick fix, and willing to hire someone who claims, on the basis of success in business, that he has the skills to fix anything. Might we hope for more in the Board of Trustees of a Catholic university than we do in the angry and intemperate electorate than now characterizes American politics?

 


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About Catherine Harmon 573 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.